Quantum Computing for Computer Scientists

Building the world’s first commercial quantum computer is an enormous challenge, requiring the expertise of physicists, mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists, semiconductor manufacturing, cryogenic and other experts  - and all the supporting cast that make up the people of D-Wave.

Explaining quantum computing is also not an easy task. The explanation and level of detail that any individual is interested in, and can understand, varies a lot based on their own knowledge of physics, math and computer science.

A new monograph on the subject, “Adiabatic Quantum Computation and Quantum Annealing, Theory and Practice” was just published, targeting “computer scientists with little background in quantum computation or in physics.” The author is Catherine McGeoch, who is the Beitzel Professor of Technology and Society and past chair of the computer science department at Amherst College.  Since earlier this summer Dr. McGeoch has been working as part of the team at D-Wave, having taken a leave of absence from Amherst in order to do so.

As the title suggests, this work is focused on the type of quantum computer best exemplified by a D-Wave system, an adiabatic quantum system. It explains the underlying theory, the practical challenges in building systems and some of the emerging performance characterizations of the D-Wave system.  It also manages to convey some of the fascinating possibilities that lay ahead in this uncharted world. To borrow a quote referenced in Dr. McGeoch’s work from computer scientist Alan Kay:

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Really smart people with reasonable funding can do just about anything that doesn’t violate too many of Newton’s Laws.”